Steve held my hand and offered a simple, profound prayer.
I thanked God for our perfect love.
Newly engaged, our 20-year-old hearts shared the deep conviction that our marriage would set new holiness records. We would pray together every day.
It didn't happen.
First, our inner clocks didn't mesh. A night owl, my medical student husband often studied until 2:00 a.m.
I, a working woman, lay legally dead at that hour. His attempts to raise me resulted in a rumble, not a resurrection.
As his schedule escalated, we saw each other mainly in our dreams. One rare evening we prayed together before supper. I left the table briefly and returned to find Steve face down in his spaghetti, snoring.
The next morning he didn't remember the prayer. I'm not sure he remembered me.
Steve graduated and practiced family medicine in a small town. Three children arrived. We joined a church and threw ourselves into committees, outreaches, and prayer meetings.
But we did not pray together.
When our kids put purple crayons into my dryer or flushed keys down the toilet, I learned Erma Bombeck's prayer: "God help you if you do that again!"—plus others, as my husband answered emergency calls and tore out of bed to deliver babies.
Consumed with family, patient, and church needs, we both learned to pray. A lot.
But not together.
What's the big deal?
In John 17:21, Jesus prayed his followers would be one, "just as you are in me and I am in you." He wanted Christians to experience the same spiritual intimacy he and God share.
Jesus didn't say, "Oh, excuse me. I forgot you two are married. Definitely an exception."
No, it made sense to me that praying together would draw us closer to God and to each other.
Steve didn't see it.
I prayed him through many challenges—patients with heart disease, others with cancer, one with a sick cow he wanted Steve to see (yes, really!). But my husband admitted he rarely prayed for me.
Even occasional suggestions that we pray together didn't register. "Maybe I should make an appointment," I muttered as Steve dashed out again. "I could pray into your stethoscope!" But he was already gone.
As the lone faithful prayer partner, I felt quite holy. The holier
I felt, the madder I grew. My prayers did not rise like incense to the Lord. Instead, they resembled a nuclear blast. Once, after days of sick, cranky children Velcroed® to my neck, I let God have it.
"Why can't he pray with me?" Like my two year old, I bawled and stuck out my lower lip. "Maybe I'll just let Steve pray for himself."
No lightning bolt zapped me.
While my children watched Big Bird, I grabbed the semi-quiet like an oxygen mask. A steaming cup of tea soothed my raging soul. God pulled up a chair. (It would have been nice if he'd brought coffee cake, but he knew I was dieting.)
God didn't say anything. He just sat with me.
Finally, I sighed. "I'm sorry, Lord." I steeled myself to say the impossible: "If Steve never prays with me or for me, I will pray for him."
Except me. Gradually I focused prayer energy on praising Jesus, not nuking my husband.
Weeks later, our children slept as we drove. Steve and Annie Chapman's song about praying together, "Circle of Two," floated softly over the radio.
"Let's do it." Steve turned to me. "Let's pray together every day!"
Brilliant idea! I felt a simultaneous urge to kiss and strangle him. Instead, I said, "I'd really like that."
I had given up. The Holy Spirit had not. In a moment, without seminar, soapbox, or seraphim—and especially without Scriptures quoted by me—God had changed Steve's mind.
Thank You, Lord.
No longer morning or night people, Steve and I were mostly tired. But we decided to pray together in bed every morning.
More than 20 years later, we still begin each day with prayer for each other, our married children and grandchildren.
Instead of blowing us apart, the pressures of every marriage season have sent us into each other's arms—and God's. Even life stresses can bless us if we take them to God together.
Rachael Phillips, an MP regular contributor, is author of Billy Sunday: Major League Evangelist (Barbour) and contributor to Help! I Can't Stop Laughing (Zondervan). She and her husband have been married 32 years.
Copyright © 2007 by the author or Christianity Today/Marriage Partnership magazine. Click here for reprint information on Marriage Partnership.